After dispatching another overmatched opponent, Ball and his Badgers teammates can finally start expressing their excitement.
"We always talk about the 1-0 mentality and to not think about Nebraska but honestly, we've had it in the back of our minds (and) now we can say we're all for them and show them how the Big Ten is," said Ball, whose 88 yards and two touchdowns were just one of the impressive performances in No.6 Wisconsin's final tune-up for No.9 Nebraska, a 59-10 blasting of Football Championship Subdivision opponent South Dakota in front of 78,880 fans Saturday at Camp Randall.
"It's perfect right now, coming off these nonconference games with stats like that going into the Big Ten now, we're very confident with a chip on our shoulder."
There's no question the Cornhuskers are going to provide a bigger challenge when they come to Madison for a primetime match-up next Saturday, and it's more than likely Nebraska is saying the same thing about the Badgers. To say Wisconsin (4-0) ran ragged through the nonconference portion of its schedule would be an understatement. The Badgers didn't just beat the competition, it destroyed them.
In increasing its regular season winning streak to 11 games, Wisconsin has gotten huge production from its offense – putting up at least 397 yards of total yards in all four games – and even better production from its defense, limiting its three BCS opponents and one FCS opponent to 246.5 yards and 8.5 points per game.
Against South Dakota, that trend continued to flourish with the Badgers' first-team offense putting up 536 of UW's 612 total yards while the defense held the Coyotes to just 173 yards of offense.
"I think we are very productive offensively and have done a great job opening up a lot of things," said center Peter Konz. "We've got a lot of good, long runs, and we're coming up to a big test now. We'll see how it translates."
Per the usual, the offense is doing its damage with balance and quick strike capabilities. Averaging at least 200 yards passing and rushing the last two seasons, Wisconsin entered Saturday's contest as just one of five teams in the country putting down at least 230 yards rushing and passing. That mark was reinforced with the play of senior wide receiver Nick Toon and the Badgers' dynamic rushing duo.
With Wisconsin leading 10-3 entering the second quarter, Toon took over with one of the best quarters of football of his collegiate career. Toon ignited the offense with four catches, 101 yards and two scores in the second quarter alone, going 59 yards on a bubble screen and making a diving 4-yard grab with 12 seconds left in the half to give UW a 31-3 lead at halftime.
Throw in Jared Abbrederis' 51-yard touchdown on UW's first play of the second half, the Badgers' four scoring drives after the second quarter took just 3 minutes, 45 seconds.
"Abby continues to get deep behind people and Russell (Wilson) can make the throw," said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, as Toon's 155 yards and Abbrederis' 101 yards gave the Badgers two 100-yard receivers for the first time since Nov 10, 2007. "What I like about our offense, more so than any time since I've been here, you have to respect the run and the play-action game. They look so much alike and they are so (many) similarities between the two that it's difficult for defenders."
Going against a defensive line that averaged 264 yards, the bruising Montee Ball and the shifty James White had little trouble taking care of business, as Ball (who scored his 30th and 31st touchdowns of his career) combined with White (team-high 95 yards and a 49-yard scoring run) to start the UW scoring barrage in the second.
With Wisconsin's offense starting slow, Ball and White averaged 8.1 yards per carry (114 yards on 14 carries, 2 touchdowns) to keep the offense moving forward in the first half. This season, the duo has combined to run for 663 yards on 110 carries (6.03 yards per carry) and 12 TDs and have caught 12 passes for 211 yards (17.6 yards per catch) and a score.
"It's not a lot of numbers (because) we just go out there and just try to make plays every time we touch the ball," said White, who is averaging 6.7 yards per rush in the nonconference season.
And with senior quarterback Russell Wilson going against his fourth overmatched opponent; his numbers continue to push him up the Heisman watch list. One of just three players in the country to average more than 10.0 yards per play of total offense, Wilson finished off scoring drive of 78, 74 and 51 yards with touchdown passes and led UW on other scoring drives consisting of 8, 10, 2, 11 and 9 plays.
After Wisconsin's breakout second quarter, Wilson had his third 200-yard passing game of the season and by the time he put on the headset midway through the fourth quarter, he had his second consecutive 300-yard passing game.
"It's been fun and we've got to credit the defense because they're doing a great job getting us the ball back," said Wilson who finished 19 of 25 for 345 yards and the three scores. "Going up against those guys every single day, it helps our offense gets better every single day."
With the success of the offense dominating the conversation, Wisconsin's defense continues to shine. Through four games, the Badgers have allowed just one rushing touchdown, held their opponents to just 19-of-56 on third downs (.339) and have yet to allow an opponent to eclipse 300 total yards.
Granted, Wisconsin's nonconference opponents aren't the caliber of Nebraska, but the numbers don't lie that the Badgers are clicking. After registering just one turnover through three games, Wisconsin's defense forced two interceptions in the first quarter, both coming in its own territory, as Shelton Johnson registered his first career interception and Borland undercut a slant for a 29-yard return.
"I'd say we're very confident," said junior linebacker Mike Taylor, who led Wisconsin with 10 tackles. "A few games, Northern Illinois, spread teams (and) UNLV gets you ready and gets your confidence up, but Nebraska is a whole new opponent. You can't compare them to anyone else."
Finally in the rearview mirror for the defending Big Ten conference champions is a regular season nonconference winning streak of 32 games and even their 4-0 record for the fourth straight year. Senior captain Aaron Henry knows nothing the Badgers have done thus far gives them an edge next weekend in their conference opener, but recognize what they've done so far certainly has raised some eyebrows.
"I hope their impression is that they (Wisconsin) have a whole lot of guys flying to the ball," Henry said. "We're going to try to get the ball back to the offense as fast as we can. It's not about solely one guy on defense. I hope they can see a true brotherhood of guys flying to the ball."